I cruised the
strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara
- 32 miles long and 3 miles wide at it's widest. It
has not changed much since Jason and the Argonauts sailed
through in search of the golden fleece, except that he
now could take a public ferry for about five dollars or
hire any number of tour boats that cost quite a bit more.
- Awake at
5:00 (read previous e-mail), up at seven to eat yet
another wonderful breakfast. Walked a half block to an
Internet café to send yesterday's travelogue and
spent the next hour trying to attach photos. Internet is
slow due to earthquake damage somewhere, or so I am told.
Had a major breakthrough - I figured out how to use my
laptop to connect directly to the Internet, but since I
am leaving tomorrow I do not know how well I will be able
to connect elsewhere.
back to the hotel and had them call a taxi for a lift to
the ferry - the taxi arrived about 15 seconds later (I am
not kidding). Taxi to Ferry - Ferry to Black Sea - a stop
at a small fishing village and then back to Istanbul. And
all for five dollars.
little about money: The American dollar is worth
literally millions - The Euro is worth even more.
Specifically, the American dollar is worth 1,434,100
Turkish lire. The largest printed currency in Turkey is
the 20,000,000 note, and it is worth $14 - The smallest
Turkish note is the 100,000 note and it is worth 7 cents.
The Turks have coins but they are worth more as scrap
metal than as currency.
does this mean everything is free? NO. It means that you
have to count a lot of zeros whenever you buy something.
A soft drink costs a million lire (about 75 cents), a
nice meal costs 15,000,000 lire (about 10 dollars) Taxi
to airport - 15 dollars, one hour of Internet time (one
dollar), taxi to almost anywhere in your neighborhood (3
dollars), a hotel room (60 dollars) - that's over 86
million lire if you like lots of zeros. You can pay in
lire, dollars, or euros, but considering the seller will
determine today's value in lire, you might do better by
giving him lire to begin with. Most places in Istanbul
accept credit cards which makes everything easier, but
the vendors will add a bit to the bill to offset the cost
of using plastic.
Turkish Carpets are quoted in dollars because only
Americans would pay that much for something that is sold
on every street corner and then take it home and walk on
Istanbul is confusing, noisy, and fast - very fast.
Horns honking, people yelling, people dodging cars, cars
dodging people - much like any normal big city. Istanbul
is crowded because Turks live in Istanbul -The ferries
and the museums on the other hand are relatively empty
because tourists ride ferry rides and visit museums, and
the tourists are staying away. I feel sorry for the
businesses - tables at restaurants empty at noon, museums
with no visitors, souvenir shops full of merchandise with
no one buying. No wonder the carpet sellers are on the
attack. One man yesterday dropped his usual line about
"Would you like some Turkish tea?" and yelled at me,
"Come to my store, I need your money." Refreshing but it
still did not work.
side note: The Turkey I have visited so far is about
visible men and invisible women. Most of the women I
have seen are tourists. The shops are run by men, the
waiters are men; men clean my hotel room, and men drive
the taxis. They gather outside the stores and talk, they
sing together while loading trucks, they spend hours
playing board games and socializing. I have seen a few
women minding a few shops and there is a woman who
prepares this hotel's breakfast, but she leaves as soon
as the hotel guests are finished. The owner of this hotel
is a woman but she is an American. How can you tell a
Turkish male from a tourist? The tourists are wearing
short-sleeved shirts, shorts, hats, sunglasses, and they
weather continues to be perfect. Clear, sunny, and
actually a little chilly today - well, I was on a
ferry for most of the morning and early afternoon. I
found yet another cat to have lunch with. I think they
know I am traveling alone and offer me company while
dining. They generally sit at my feet or in the chair
across from me.
Turks are mountain goats. I walked back to my hotel
from the ferry. Now the ferry is at sea level and my
hotel is next to the Topkapi Palace which was built at
the top of the highest hill around. Thought I was going
to die - even their bridges go uphill. While I was
sweating and wheezing to the top, little old women
covered from head to toe in black were passing me on both
sides. Did I mention that Turkey is not handicap
- I have
seen eighty year olds with canes jumping on ferries which
were only partially tied to the dock. The steps to the
Blue Mosque are 12 inches high per step. My hotel has
four stories and no elevator - the only way to my room is
up a circular staircase. I think it may be illegal to
bring wheelchairs into the country because I certainly
have seen none - well, come to think of it, they would be
of little use with all the stairs, hills, circular
staircases and ferry jumping requirements.
I leave for Izmir and Bergama. I will be departing for
the airport by 9 AM tomorrow morning and should be in
Bergama by 2. I do not think there is much of a chance
that there will be an Internet Café in Bergama, so
I may be off-line for a few days.